Kyle's Republic
Wednesday, December 22, 2004
 
He's got it

Kevin Drum makes a point:

Conservatives seem to think that Americans like wars. They don't. They like winning wars.


Viewed as a sports team, our military is trapped in some bizarre league where only our losses count. That's a psychic nightmare for guys who live for winning.
 
Tuesday, December 21, 2004
 
Nightmare scenario

Arnold Schwarzenegger for Homeland Security.

Oh Christ.
 
 
Kerik again; analysis of a loose end

Politicians do things that I don't understand. I must be missing some piece of background info -- skimming Times and Post articles only tells you so much, and nowadays that's all I want to do. But anway.

Going back to the summer of 2003 . . .

Supposedly, Bush wants to transform Iraq. And in simple political terms, he needs the place stable fast -- otherwise his political life is at risk.

Our declared goalposts in Iraq are national elections and the creation of effective native security forces. Kerik accepts the job of training the police, which is crucial. And after 4 months he goes home, with no sign of a reliable police force to be found.

Now, 14 months or so later, Bush gives Kerik an even bigger job, that of keeping the American population safe from attack. Regarding the Iraq job, the president's aides say, Bush feels "at least he tried." (The quote's not word for word, but it was the same phrasing.)

Why would Bush put more trust in someone who let him down?

Possibilities:

* Iraq's police are better than we think. (Doesn't seem like it from reading Najaf, etc., coverage last summer; also Seymour Hersh on the number of double agents among our police recruits; and recent headlines.)

* Kerik's Iraq mission has been misreported. Maybe he was just there to show the flag and get people pumped up. (What about the "at least he tried" quote?)

* Kerik had a secret assignment, with the police job as cover. (Seems kind of dumb.)

* Maybe the Homeland Secretary isn't supposed to do anything anyway. Bush just wants to keep the public entertained and reassured. (That's the one.)

My new theory regarding Kerik: it's not so much that Bush himself was hyponotized by the guy (which would suggest late-Roman Empire levels of fecklessness) as that he figured the guy would do a good job of captivating the rest of us. Rumsfeld was a star for the administration in the first term; Bush needed a replacement for the second.

Of course, at first I did think Bush sees Kerik as his very own fantasy-object. Can I believe Bush to be that simple and then believe him to be that calculating? Here's where Rove comes in, of course.
 
Sunday, December 19, 2004
 
A bit precious, but you get his point

Fafblog on Bush as Time Man of the Year:

2004 was the year of a head of cabbage! Its bold decisive leadership affected everything from the war in Iraq to the can-do inertia of the presidential election.

A head of cabbage always offered us steady leadership in times of change. When we wonder "what's goin on in this crazy world I do not understand" there's a head a cabbage bein a head a cabbage!

Its reassuring vegetableness, its green leafiness, the way it looked
natural on a farm, spoke to our deep cabbagey values. And it knew how to stick
to its guns! When its critics complained that it was a bad cabbage or that it
had food poisoning or that it had pointlessly launched the military into a
nightmarish, unjustified quagmire, it knew just what to do: keep sittin there
bein a cabbage.

Bein a cabbage, a head of cabbage isn't that smart. But it also knows that it's not that smart and listens to other the other cabbages around it which makes it an excellent cabbage manager! Some people say a buncha cabbages will just keep makin stupid mistakes, but the important thing is they will never admit them.

Most important, a head of cabbage has inspired millions with its deep
cabbage values. We are more cabbagey as a nation because of a head of cabbage,
and with its help we can aspire to higher and higher levels of vegetative
wonder. A head of cabbage is Fafblog's Man of the Year.


 
 
Bush takes blame!

From the New York Times:

White House officials went to some lengths last week to say that Mr. Bush had
acted on his own instincts in nominating Mr. Kerik and had not acted simply on
the recommendation of Mr. Giuliani.
"The president had his own independent relationship with Kerik that had formed over the last several years, and he made his own decision," a White House official said last weekend.

Or, if not taking blame, the president passes up blaming Giuliani. That's still better than I expected.

The article notes that Bush received Kerik in the White House after the bald man's abbreviated tour in Iraq. Bush's comments out on the South Lawn:

"Bernie went there and made a big difference," Mr. Bush said. "And for that our
nation is very grateful."


So my personal mystery remains. What is it about spending 14 weeks in Iraq, 14 weeks out of a multiyear job, that can make a president so grateful? Doesn't Bush notice these discrepancies?
 
 
The letters are to the families of dead soldiers

From the Washington Post:

Stars and Stripes quoted families of the dead saying they were insulted that
Rumsfeld did not sign the letters himself. They also said they were suspicious
about the signature on similar letters they received from President Bush, but a
White House spokesman said Bush does put pen to paper himself.

So Rumsfeld is busier than the president. Then again that's not news.

Anyway, now he'll be signing:

In a statement provided to Stars and Stripes, the military newspaper, Rumsfeld
said: "I wrote and approved the now more than 1,000 letters sent to family
members and next of kin of each of the servicemen and women killed in military
action. While I have not individually signed each one, in the interest of
ensuring expeditious contact with grieving family members, I have directed that
in the future I sign each letter."

So I guess the family members will have to wait. "I have a good reason for doing this thing that I am no longer going to do." That's not a quote, just the boiled-down gist of a lame excuse.

I'm tired. Really, the evidence suggests that Rumsfeld doesn't care much about whether his soldiers live thru his war.
 
 
My dad's point

Rolling Thunder started in the summer of 1965. Tet happened in January 1968. That's about two and a half years before Vietnam sank its teeth in Johnson politically. So maybe we're ten months away from when Iraq's political effects go from unwelcome to toxic.
 
Wednesday, December 15, 2004
 
Ah ha!

From the New York Times:

Mr. Bush admired Mr. Kerik for his service as New York City's police
commissioner on Sept. 11, 2001, for his willingness to try to train the police
force in Iraq and for campaigning tirelessly for the president's re-election.


Still, Bush admired him for "trying" to train police in Iraq? Just for trying? But I'm happy to have confirmation for my theory of Bush as prime mover behind the fiasco. The sentence right before the one quoted above:

. . . everyone at the White House knew that Mr. Bush liked Mr. Kerik,
placing him in the special category of "this guy's our guy."



 
Tuesday, December 14, 2004
 
Unduly confident speculation on the Kerik situation

Kerik took all blame for the fiasco in the statement he read Friday out on his lawn. Saw it on the Daily Show last night. The Post story (“White House Blames Kerik”) left that out. Formally speaking, the White House, in that story, was agreeing with Kerik. Odd that the White House sources themselves didn’t say so, since that is the point of forcing someone to read an agreed-upon line.

Kerik takes the blame (for a fig-leaf charge, the nanny business); in return Giuliani lets him come back to the security-consulting job, which is probably a gold mine. For getting his henchman in line, Giuliani is allowed by the White House to continue to have a shot at the nomination. Giuliani also offers public apologies to the White House; these are profusely worded but have little content.

Of course, the dance agreed to by the White House, Kerik, and Giuliani only has to do with the ostensible charge. When Giuliani says he should have known of Kerik’s legal problems, he means only the nanny problem. (Has the existence of that problem been verified yet?) So many other issues have come out, with the gifts from the mobbed-up friend getting the most attention. But the three players, in Republican style, are going to brazen that out.

The screw-up is all Bush’s, of course. He should have known Kerik was bad news from the resume. Kerik walked out on his Iraq job. What more needs to be said? Bush believes Iraq is our great national mission; Kerik had a linchpin job (training the police); he walked out. If Bush’s world makes any sense at all, it cannot make sense for Kerik to deserve high office.

But Bush thinks even less than we all believed. He’s more like a dog following its nose, pulled along from one sensation to another. He lands in the middle of each and doesn’t remember what came before it. He doesn’t think at all.

Now he has messed up just like he did with Iraq, and the first job is to move the blame along. The ball does not even start in his office; it’s with the White House vetters. From there it is shoved firmly onto Kerik and Giuliani. The media accepts this as the ground rules. No one suggests that a president must show very bad judgment to choose someone who, at the very least, cannot be trusted to fully disclose on issues that have been crucial to cabinet nominations for 12 years — leaving aside everything else, the piles and masses of other embarrassing stuff that has piled into view over the past few days.

Of course, for Bush the deal killer would have been the two mistresses. And maybe he’d be right. It’s the kind of thing a corrupt cop would do in a Bruckheimer movie — a bullet-headed thug and muscleman gifted with low cunning and an indifference to others. Even by his own standards, Bush is a fool. Out of a Bruckheimer movie, he picked the villain.

What we have is a street thug being held in line by his reedy-voiced dwarf of a paymaster and political overlord, who in turn is being held in line by the apparatchiks of the spoiled frat boy who gets to be at the top of the pyramid. The thug is sure he could rip out the paymaster's throat if circumstances were equal. The paymaster is sure the frat boy couldn't last for a second if he had to face the crises the paymaster did when he was mayor. The frat boy believes he is master of the universe, and he makes certain everyone lets him believe it. This paragraph may read like a chain of insults, but it is really an unexaggerated (except for"dwarf") anatomy of the Kerik situation. This is how the Republican Party works under Bush.
 
Monday, December 13, 2004
 
Giuliani apologizes to Bush, but for what?

Giuliani's role in the Kerik fiasco, as described by the New York Times:

WASHINGTON, Dec. 12 - Former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani had a Christmas
dinner at the White House on Sunday night, and he attended with an important
goal in mind: to apologize to his host for pushing
Bernard B. Kerik as homeland security secretary
and then watching as
Mr. Kerik's nomination collapsed in legal problems and embarrassed the president
of the United States.

Who says Giuliani pushed Kerik? Not Giulian. He says he never talked with the White House about the nomination:

"Even though there was never a conversation about it, I realize that one of the reasons they did it was because of my confidence in Bernie over the years," he
said. "And I feel like maybe I should have involved myself more in it."


So Giuliani says his fault was to do little. (It's hard to imagine him ever thinking he had done too much.) The lead should say something like "apologized for not having known of Mr. Kerik's legal problems and for failing to warn against them." Because Giuliani does want it understood that he had no idea of the Kerik dirty linen:

In the interview, Mr. Giuliani indicated that he should have known about
Mr. Kerik's legal problems because he had named him police commissioner and then
had gone into business with him. The former mayor seemed to suggest as much in a
phone call on Saturday morning to Andrew H. Card Jr., the White House chief of
staff.

"I said, 'Well, I wish I had figured it out earlier,' " Mr. Giuliani
said. "That's what I was apologizing for, that we hadn't figured this out
earlier."


Giuliani says Andy Card was "very nice about it." Of course, if Kerik had such disabling legal problems, Giuliani should feel bad for having appointed him. But Giuliani doesn't seem to think Kerik's problems are actually problems at all, because:

As for Mr. Giuliani, he said he expected to soon have Mr. Kerik back in the
Times Square offices of Giuliani Partners, where they have worked together since
leaving city government at the end of 2001. The partnership, which is staffed by
many of Mr. Giuliani's top former City Hall aides, will emerge from this debacle
largely unscathed, Mr. Giuliani insisted.


So Giuliani still thinks (or at least indicates) that Kerik is worthy of trust. Kerik's legal problems must be, to Giuliani, just superficial blots that give the press something to crow about but don't really signify. So why doesn't he fight for his man and make a noise? Because Bush pulled the plug on Kerik's nomination, and even Giuliani knows a Republican cannot fight Bush. So he pushes the words out of his mouth and makes a circumscribed apology that is most notable for lacking any defense of his friend -- there's the real concession to the White House. The Times converts this into an apology that would make sense on its face, an apology for actually helping to cause the problem. That's either great sloppiness or else substantial sloppiness combined with a certain marinating in the White House mindset.

Final points. The Bush gang seems ungrateful, but this is still a good line:

. . . a top administration official once noted that the former mayor would be
good for any job that didn't require him to get along with people.


Finally, what does "licks" mean in the following quote? If I knew, I'd have a glimpse into the Bush tram's mindset. As it is, I don't understand this paragraph (on the Kerik fiasco's fallout):

"It hurts him politically, so therefore by extension it's going to hurt him with
the White House," said a Republican close to the administration who has worked
for both Mr. Bush and Mr. Giuliani and who asked not to be identified because of
the political sensitivity of the situation. "Nobody at the White House is saying
to themselves, 'Damn that Rudy Giuliani.' It's more, 'Well, he got his licks.' "

 
Sunday, December 12, 2004
 
Red state voices, part 2

An American teaching in Damascus reports on his students' views:

. . . I ventured: "Who do you want to win?" "Bush," said Rahaf, while a
number of others nodded in solid agreement. I pressed them further for a few
minutes, asking individual students why they liked Bush. The same ideas came up
again and again: he is a strong leader, an honest man, and, most of all, a
believer. . . .

I found these same sentiments expressed almost word for word in my two
other classes. In addition, some of the most articulate students expressed
intense misgivings about central Democratic electoral platforms, including gun
control, limitation of the death penalty and especially abortion and gay rights.
Just the word "homosexual" made many of them cringe and click their tongues in
that uniquely Arab way of showing disapproval. A final piece of the puzzle fell
into place when I learned that more than half of the students in my advanced
class, among them a third-year medical student and daughter of a Western-based
diplomat, rejected the theory of evolution. "I just can't believe that we came
from monkeys," she said. . . .

 
 
Headline classic

From today's Washington Post:

White House Puts Blame on Kerik

And, sure, why not? The story's "White House officials" claim the guy repeatedly said no when asked if he had nanny problems. The vetters did what they could; it's just that the person in question was so dishonest or confused that his word could not be trusted. Not even about matters that are both politically crucial and fairly simple, such as those involved in the typical confirmation process. If a candidate is that disorganized or dumb the fault lies only with him and the person who nominated him.

I expect the president agrees because the vetting was overseen by Alberto Gonzales, who has been promoted to attorney general. (The story notes that "some" of the White House lawyers "are blaming Bush's insistence on speed and secrecy" for the oversights.)

Kerik also had an outstanding arrest warrant, which is unusual in nominees to federal office, or maybe any office. The story says Newsweek found this out in "a few days of research." Kerik withdrew his name Friday, after Newsweek faxed the White House copies of the warrant. The story itself appeared Friday evening.

The article does not mention some bigger problems in Kerik's past, issues that were known from the beginning. The biggest of these would be that he took the job of training the Iraqi police and then dropped it after four months. With that on his resume it's baffling to think he'd be up for a job again.

I believe two things about Bush: that he judges people as if he were watching a Jerry Bruckheimer movie; and that he punishes anyone who gets between him and his fantasies. Here one of his Bruckheimer-style fantasy objects -- the bullet-headed, bodybuilder New York ex-cop with a can-do attitude -- walked off the job when Bush needed him.

But Bush needed him only for contributions to an incremental process of fantasy realization in a distant country. The fantasy object himself, the ex-cop, was right at hand, and nominating him provided Bush with a quick, clear, short route to fantasy realization. Therefore Bush nominated him.

Extra material: I read on the blogs that Kerik handled security for a Saudi hospital whose owner had him surveil mistresses suspected of cheating. Was this before or after the Iraqi walkout? Don't know.

UPDATE: It was a long time before the walkout, namely the early 1980s, and the surveiling was done for the hospital's administrator, not owner. But here's the story.
 
Thursday, December 09, 2004
 
Cannon fodder

"You go to war with the army you have." The remark's resemblance to "Stuff happens" (the Rumsfeld explanation for looting) has been mentioned. The answer sounds very like a brush-off, and Rumsfeld directed it at a soldier asking about decisions that have made life in combat more dangerous.

Shouldn't the Democrats be calling for Rumsfeld to get fired over this? A secretary of defense should be the one who thinks the longest and hardest about how we can fight with the least possible expenditure of lives. And if you want to be political, you can stick "soldiers'" in front of "lives." No matter how much any American likes war, no one will accept our troops being treated as cannon fodder.
 
Tuesday, December 07, 2004
 
What the . . . ?

I just came across this New York Observer profile of Oriana Fallaci. She's lukewarm about Bush, but:

"I adore his wife," she said. "You wouldn't believe it: Laura Bush has the face of my mother when my mother was young. The face, the body, the voice. The first time I saw on TV Laura Bush, I got frozen because it was as if my mother was not dead. 'Oh, Mama,' I said, 'Mama.'"


I don't know. It just freaks me out.
 
Sunday, December 05, 2004
 
Life in another country, on another planet, in a place I've never been and cannot imagine

Tom Tomorrow quotes a New Yorker article about Judith Reisman, Ph.D., a researcher who opposes the kind of sex life most people wish to God they could lead. Her doctorate is in communications, not sexology (there is such a field, and it has even more swank than communications), and of course the Republicans give her what money and attention she normally gets. Reisman terribly dislikes Alfred Kinsey, but what grabbed my eye was this:

. . . she has been active in the rise of abstinence-only education; in June, her colleagues gave her an Abstie Award for lifetime achievement.



 
Everything the others don't get

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